Paddy Upton: People Centred Coaching

Paddy Upton: People Centred Coaching

Paddy Upton has worn numerous ‘labels’ in his career, such as Business coach, Cricket coach, Mental conditioning coach, and High-performance coach. Despite all the various titles bestowed upon him, he simply has found a way to weave Leadership skills, entrepreneurial skills, management skills, and various philosophies into one approach that he’s pretty much made his own.

The main component of Paddys’ way is to get out of the way, in other words to not focus on coaching by applying and handing down autocratic rules, but instead to create a coaching environment wherein peer management is the focal point.

The author approached Paddy to test the hypothesis that the very same principles that apply to Entrepreneurs also applies to high level performers within the professional sports arena, albeit that the environments within which they apply their respective skill sets may differ vastly.

The reader, as an entrepreneur is likely to find synergy between the leadership and entrepreneurial principles that they should apply to be a sustainable success and the principles unfolding from within this writing.

In unison with Gary Kirsten as head coach, Paddy took the Indian national cricket team to the pinnacle of the sport which seemed to be, at that point in time, a very unlikely feat. As he coached teams in various country’s’ with a diverse make-up his coaching style became malleable as both internal and external circumstances demanded.

As a coach with international acclaim he firmly believes in applying the principle of “Authenticity” wherever he coaches.

In essence, this means to create an environment from within it is perfectly ok to admit your fears and short comings, for only then, the team is put into a position where collectively they can do something about developing countermeasures for their potential shortfalls.

When individual and collective fears and shortcomings are hidden within a team environment, nothing is done to eradicate them, and as a result, negative and hidden forces fester until the spotlight is cast upon them as they become transparent within the context of very poor performances.

Within the team environment that Paddy continues to foster, a platform is created for every player to admit, for example, that they are fearful of short and fast pitched bowling. Once that level of Authenticity is reached it then becomes relatively simple to find solutions collectively as peers for issues such as portrayed by this example.

Similarly, as Entrepreneurs we are encouraged by this illustration to be guided by the principle of authenticity. When we as business owners and leaders exhibit the behaviour of hiding our feelings and fears we make it ok for our team members to emulate that very same behaviour to the detriment of our businesses or organisations.

A critical factor in being authentic, according to Paddy is to be acutely aware of your own intentions as a coach or team member. Our intention plugs into ego and it is crucial for the sake of the team culture to assess whether I am, as an individual team member, acting to serve only myself or others. As Entrepreneurs, we will do well to learn from “Paddys’ way” and introspectively assess our intentions before we engage our stakeholders.

When our intention is to serve others rather than purely ourselves we are much more likely to create a positive environment for all stakeholders as opposed to an environment where negative labelling and blame-shifting forms part of the collective culture.

From vast experience in establishing a high-performance team culture Paddy advises to not have one on one sessions purely to reprimand players for their misconduct or failures. Instead he advocates “Non-judgemental Learning discussions” which creates the opportunity for the player to apply the lessons learnt from past ‘failures’ in a positive way rather than being judged and his self-esteem being decimated.

He does this by stating that ‘its’ totally ok to make an error’, and then asking, ‘ if the same situation comes up again in the future, which is likely to happen, what will you do differently next time?’ The focus of this discussion is on a future solution, which is a creative confidence building exercise, rather than harping on past problems, which undermines confidence and learning, and can even undermine the relationship between employee and the employer.

Paddy coaches in the prestigious Indian Premier League (IPL) and only has five to eight weeks to spend with his team. “What can we do as coaching team to make this the most enjoyable time of your life”, is an honest question that Paddy poses to all his team members at the beginning of their time together which reflects his sincere commitment to create a wonderful team environment.

Another aim of his is to have at least a 10% more aspirational culture than other teams – this way there is a higher likelihood of having more engaged players enduring longer through inevitable challenging times.

The Authors’ interaction with Paddy reminded him of the vast leadership potential within all individuals and that by creating a positive and engaging culture, every leader can assist in unleashing the potential of others, should they desire to, and when they have the intention of serving others.


Although the respective environments may differ the principles to high performance as an Entrepreneur, Leader, or professional sports person remain the same. To purposefully create a positive environment for your team wherein they have a voice and can enjoy what they do with a sense of freedom, is a leap forward in establishing a high and sustainable performance culture. Paddy is a forward-thinking individual whom finds ways to learn constantly. As a leader, he is happy to share what he has learnt and what he has learnt is priceless.